Tiny notes hammered on the hidden harp float up into my little ears and flutter about like snowflakes looking for a place to land. My daddy’s voice comes in on lead. Reverb passes through walls like the resurrected Christ. Warm in this fortress, I open my eyes and squint at sunlight magnified over bright snow.

Years of Sunday mornings I wake up this way, with the sound of hymns as my alarm clock, and smile as I stretch out of my pilled-up nightgown and slip into a smocked dress to head to our gathering place. There in the stream of light filtering through stained glass, I click my buckled shoes on linoleum and watch Daddy move his hands like a gust of wind swooping and bouncing the words out to us in 3/4 time.

I look down at page 236 in Great Hymns of the Faith, follow the path of the notes on the lines of the treble clef, and listen to my mom turn them into music on the church piano. I hear steadfast men bellowing bass notes and graceful women with their shivering vibratos.

I sing with them.

Slowly the feathery fragments find one another, waft on bursts of winter wind and drift their way into piles, each individual with its delicate symmetry joining with the one next to it.

I know these words by heart already and so I slide the green fabric-covered hymnal into the wooden slot on the back of the pew. I can recite the musical poetry, but I don’t yet know what these words will mean to me when someday I will walk through the halls of another church and wonder if He can really forgive me for all the ways I’ve wronged Him.

The choir’s harmonies will swirl in the air and those words will drift together, phrase upon phrase, note upon note, and they will pile on the years of Sunday morning truths sung out, altogether heaped into a strong fort of grace that saved a wretch like me.

(We revel in the hymns in our house. I want my kids to know them by heart, too. Click below to hear my baby girl singing her favorite tune.)